Three-year-old Casey Hathaway was found alive and well around 9 p.m. Thursday night near his home in rural Craven County, North Carolina.
Casey was in relatively good health and spirits, according to law enforcement officials. The outcome of this missing child search is being described by many as a miracle. Investigators believe Casey spent nearly 55 hours in the elements.
Casey was located after a local neighbor called the tip line saying she heard a small child calling out. Casey was found about a quarter-mile from his last known location, his great-grandmother's house.
Casey spent two full nights out in the woods in the cold with scattered rain showers and little protection from the elements. Had the search not ended when it did, he would have had another cold night. Everyone is happy that Casey is home and reunited with his family.
Another positive outcome from this week was to see the multiple law enforcement agencies, local volunteers and prayers that were directed at the search and rescue operation.
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told the Sun Journal Friday morning that Casey went missing Tuesday afternoon, and shortly after, every major player was on the ground looking for Casey. That includes the FBI, Marines, officers and deputies from surrounding departments, planes, drones and dogs.
Eastern North Carolina residents may remember a similar but longer search in 2017 for Mariah Woods. The outcome of that search was horrific but the community support and the desire of local residents to help was staggering in both cases.
Thank you to all the agencies and the volunteers who spent hours and days in the woods in cold and wet weather to search for Casey. Thank you to all the churches and local businesses that supported the volunteers by bringing food, tables and other supplies to the volunteer staging area at a nearby church. One rescue volunteer even told our photographer that there was so much food and companionship that it felt like a Thanksgiving dinner.
"I'm just very thankful for the outpouring of support we got from the community," Hughes said.
REPRINTED FROM THE NEW BERN SUN JOURNAL